WordPress vs. Website Builders

websites should be easy to createPeople often ask me about WordPress – can it be used to build their website? is it better than a website builder? well, it depends…

WordPress is a free platform that was developed originally to allow people to easily create blogs. Over the years, as it gained popularity (and become the number one platform to manage websites) WordPress morphed into a content management system for any type of website. Thousands of programmers write apps (plug-ins) that add muscle to WordPress – shopping carts, carousel photo galleries, SEO tools, calendar and scheduling, etc. Many designers create skins (called themes) to WordPress that allow you to change the look of the whole website in seconds, at least in theory. Editing pages is easy and can be done with styling buttons that work like Office products – add a photo or video, underline, bold, change font type and color, bullet points, etc.

So far so good. The downside is that WordPress requires some HTML knowledge if you want to make certain things on the page look good and accurate. From my experience, even when I created WordPress websites for clients and trained them on how to use it to modify pages, they end up frustrated with the alignment of photos or with tables on the page and ask me to help them with coding to make the page look more organized and coherent. The bottom line is that WordPress is not very friendly for people who have a very specific sense of style and do not have the programming skills to support it.

WordPress is also not ideal for e-commerce – since it was developed as a blog management system, all shopping cart plug-ins that were later added do not have all the advanced functions that systems like Shopify offer – track shipments, returns, automated email communication with customers, advanced coupon options, etc. You will also need to pay separately for the plug-ins, SSL certificate, and a PCI compliant hosting account to let users shop on your website. One last issue – most WordPress templates do not look good on mobile devices – except the new responsive themes which automatically adjust the size and amount of content on the page to match your screen size.

Website builders, in general, offer a simplified experience to website owners. You do not need any knowledge of programming to pick a template and adjust it to match your taste. Many themes were developed to specific industries – so if you own a restaurant, a photography studio, hair salon, or a pet shop you are likely to find a template that looks like a well-established website and does not require too many adjustments. In addition, some of the better website builders, specifically Wix, allow you to drag and drop items so you can control the placement of each photo, text box or video on the page and make sure that all elements are aligned exactly as you want them to be. Oh, and you do not need to pay for web hosting or anything when you start a website on most of these platforms.

In conclusion, for most people who start a new website, website builders are a better choice. If you want more sophisticated functions, or if you have some coding skills or budget to hire a coder, you should consider using WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and other content management systems to create your website.